Taking the Plunge: First-Time Homebuyer Programs

Taking the Plunge: First-Time Homebuyer Programs

Every time I go to a social gathering these days (from BBQ’s to weddings to birthdays) two life-changing events keep popping up: having babies and buying a home. Sure, having kids and nesting into a home are nothing new under the sun, but in the Bay Area with home prices and cost of living the way they are, I find that both events take on a new significance, e.g. “Wow, you can afford to have a baby/buy a house in the Bay Area?” But now that the market is easing up, I’m hearing more and more couples (and single folks) talking about undertaking two of the possibly biggest steps of their lives and often in quick succession.

Enter: first-time homebuyer programs. As prices come down, they’re becoming all the rage for newbie homeowners, especially those who never thought they could own and/or will be newbie parents looking to nest. Although these programs have been around for awhile, they didn’t make as much sense when the market was booming since the stringent ceilings on income were incompatible with the actual market prices of homes (e.g. very low incomes qualified for many programs yet these same incomes could not afford the bubble’s mortgages).

Programs are generally available in every city and interestingly can be combined. For example your city’s program (for example, Oakland has a down payment assistance program which pays either $10,000 or 6% of the purchase price, whichever is greater).  Each program has its own income and family size requirements so you will need to do your research. I would be happy to discuss your different options with city financing and layering it with programs such as FHA. Furthermore, there’s new tax incentives provided by the stimulus package to benefit you on your home purchase.

Here is a sampling of some of the programs available:

Oakland The Town offers both a Mortgage Assistance Program (a $75,000 loan with no payments due until the home is sold again) as well as down payment assistance ($10,000 or 6% of the purchase price, whichever is greater).

City of Alameda Loans from $50,000 to $80,000 available to use as down payment or towards closing costs.

Emeryville Provides down payment assistance for both regular properties as well as “Below-Market-Rate” properties. Special assistance for City of Emeryville employees as well as teachers.

Dublin Loans available for up to 10% of the purchase price (15% for Below-Market-Rate units). Those who live or work in Dublin have priority as well as individuals with disabilities, seniors, or people needing to relocate due to housing demolition or condo conversion.

Pleasanton Pleasanton’s program consists mainly of Below-Market-Rate units. They had a down payment assistance program but funds were not available as of February 1st, 2008. However, the website states to “check back periodically” as the status may change.

Livermore Provides loans up to $30,000 for low and moderate income borrowers.

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